We have heard quotes and read memes along the lines that anger hurts the person holding it more than the person it is directed at. What I want to explore today is if that is in fact true, and if it is, why.
In order to feel anger you must first develop value judgments about a given situation. For instance, a person tells you that Tom Brady is a cheater. Your initial thoughts to yourself might be as follows; “That isn’t true!”, “Why the hell do I have to listen to this crap again” or “That guy has some big balls to say that in front of me”.
All those thoughts would stem from a self-defeating belief of some kind. That internal belief might be something like this; “I should not have to tolerate opinions that do not match my own”, “Other people’s ignorance is intolerable”, or “I am more intelligent and more self aware than those around me, and as such, I should not have to listen to other’s ignorance”
Once you have beliefs along those lines, they inevitable lead to negative thoughts when you run into a situation you find intolerable, Once you view something as intolerable, the i emotions that follow are anger and frustration. That anger then leads to other irrational thoughts such as ” I want to punch him in his face” or “I will shut this jerk up right now”.
So, are those thoughts harming yourself? Does seeing yourself as righteous and wanting to correct other’s behavior hurt you? If your goal in life is to be a happy and healthy person and be in happy and healthy relationships, yes. They hurt those goals in three major ways.
First, they promote dogmas. Once you’ve decided that your truth is the only truth, it is almost impossible for you to tolerate opposing viewpoints. You will become angry more often and will try and shut down opposing viewpoints. This hurts you by creating drama and friction with anyone that doesn’t hold the same dogmas as yourself and it stunts personal growth. We can only grow as humans by challenging what we think we know. We have to question everything. We have to be open to hearing new ideas or evaluating new evidence with an open mind. If we don’t, it becomes impossible to learn new ideas, or as in this case, it becomes impossible to be wrong in your own mind.
Secondly, anger is disruptive to having healthy relationships. People do not like being around angry people. It’s not fun to be on the receiving end of anger, and it’s also not fun to witness on the sideline.
Lastly, anger clouds your judgment. When you are in the middle of the negative feedback loop (You think irrational thoughts based on your self-defeating beliefs thus causing anger which then causes more irrational thoughts which leads to more anger) it is nearly impossible to think outside the loop. You are much more likely to make poor decisions when angry, such as whether or not to actually punch the guy saying things you dislike.
The most compelling reason to try and control your anger through rational thought is that anger itself always makes a situation worse, even when it comes to physical confrontations. You are much more likely to resolve any issue by remaining calm and thinking rationally. Instead of telling yourself that the guy does not have a right to his opinion, you could instead simply say to yourself “Everyone has opinions. His opinions don’t have to match mine to make him valuable as a person” or “I don’t really want to hear this nonsense again, I think I will turn my attention away from this conversation” and lastly you could say to yourself ” Let me listen to this guy, maybe he has new information I haven’t heard yet. If he doesn’t, maybe I can change his mind with my own thoughts on the matter.”
Quotes and memes only have value if they are true and only if you have a deep understanding of why they are true.